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Downtime is best time for Dunedin to plan Causeway Boulevard's future

Dunedin is about to launch another of its visioning corridor studies, this one of Causeway Boulevard, which leads to Honeymoon Island State Park. At a cost of $75,000, some might criticize the study as expensive busywork and suggest it should be put off, especially since there is little development occurring anywhere. But city officials argue, correctly, that this is the right time to figure out what Causeway Boulevard should look like in the future.

Part of the reason that Pinellas County developed so haphazardly, with an inadequate road network and conflicting uses, is that it built up quickly and with no forethought. In the 1960s and '70s, developers were beating on Pinellas' door; local officials eager for growth weren't going to turn them away while they created a vision for the county.

So Dunedin officials want to take advantage of this time when there is no development pressure to create a good plan for Causeway Boulevard. For years, the area was overlooked while other sections of the city such as downtown were improved — even though hundreds of thousands of people drive the boulevard each year on their way to Honeymoon Island. The road had no landscaping, an unkempt right of way, and a hodgepodge of uses, none of them very attractive.

The entrance to Causeway Boulevard also has long been marred by the presence of an old, mostly vacant shopping center.

Dunedin has improved the causeway with some landscaping, but more substantial improvements and new land-development regulations await the completion of the causeway corridor study. At its May 20 meeting, the Dunedin City Commission voted unanimously to hire HDR Engineering of Tampa to perform the study. In a bow to the city's tight budget, the firm's original bid of $100,000 was whittled down to $75,000 when the city staff agreed to take on some of the work. Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue already was budgeted to pay for the study.

As in the case of the two previous corridor studies of Douglas and Patricia avenues, property owners will be asked to contribute their ideas and concerns while the corridor plan is developed. But this time, the process will include some extra bells and whistles, including a live website with updates as work on the plan progresses, and a four-day charrette to allow stakeholders to do some hands-on planning for the corridor.

At the end of the process, HDR will write a draft development plan for the boulevard, along with drawings and photographs that will show how the street and development alongside the street would look under the new plan. HDR also will complete a draft "form-based code" — rules for developers and property owners that will ensure the corridor develops as the community wants. The City Commission will hold public hearings before voting on the drafts this fall.

Someday the economy will improve and developers will again be able to get financing for their projects. When that happens and developers discover Causeway Boulevard and its untapped potential, the city will be ready for them with a plan that describes the community's expectations and a land-development code that lays out the rules.

Downtime is best time for Dunedin to plan Causeway Boulevard's future 06/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 8:41pm]
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